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Annastasia of Rome

Anastasia, the holy martyr of Christ, whom we commemorate today, was from the glorious city of Rome. She lived during the reigns of of Emperor Decius (249-251) and his successors Gallus (251-253) and Valerian (253-259).

From her earliest youth, Anastasia desired Christ. Thus, she took up the good and sweet yoke which our Savior describes: My yoke is good and my burden is light (Mt11:30). Desiring to learn of Him and find rest for her soul (Mt11:29), the maiden embraced the monastic life. Later, she was counted worthy of martyrdom which she endured valiantly and courageously for her heavenly Bridgegroom. We shall learn later of her diverse and dreadful tortures, by which she was greatly glorified by Him with a triple crown: virginity, asceticism, and martyrdom. We shall now carefully narrate her life for the readers benefit.

The Saint at the Convent Anastasia, the praiseworthy maiden, shared the name of our God and Saviors resurrection. For the love of Jesus Christ, she renounced father, mother, and relatives. The maiden despised wealth, glory, and every worldly pleasure. She abandoned all those fleeting and temporal good things so she might enjoy that everlasting and abiding blessedness. Therefore, Annastasia left for a convent when she was twenty years old. She was tonsured by the virtuous and educated Mother Sophia, who carefully instructed and admonished the new nun in the monastic life. The young Anastasia, as one intelligent and disciplined, invariably benefited from the admonitions of her teacher and exhibited abundant virtue. Beholding her spiritual daughter, Mother Sophia glorified the Lord at her progress in divine love. The enemy, however, envied the maidens mettle. Thus, he gave her great and vehement carnal warfare, hoping to compel her, if it were at all possible to scorn the monastic state or, at least, to become negligent in her asceticism. Nevertheless, Christs athlete did not hesitate to engage in spiritual contests. On the contrary, she became more eager before the enemy and his treachery. As he increased his warfare, so much more bravely did she contend. Restraining, the flesh through the love of wisdom, she vanquished and shamed the tempters dominion. The malevolent demon, acknowledging his inability to overcome her, contrived another treacherous plot. He would expose her to his ministers and minions of impiety, who were extremely eager and diligent about subjecting Christians to diverse torments. The devil then incited certain ones to divulge to Governor Probus that Anastasia neither worshipped the deities nor revered the emperor, but instead proclaimed Christ as True God and the creator of all things. The Saint is Arrested

Probus, therefore gathered many people into the amphitheater and commanded that the blessed nun be brought forward. Straightway, his ministers went to the convent. With exceeding brashness and fury, they broke down the doors. Rushing inside, they demanded Anastasia. The holy maidens instructress, Mother Sophia, beholding the madness of the soldiers, understood the reason for their forced entry. She begged them to wait for a little while. With tears in her eyes, she took Anastasia aside before the sacred icon of the Master Christ, and said, I, my beloved daughter, from the time I received thee in to the convent, never neglected to teach thee the life according to God; but now thou has arrived at that age of the stature fo the fullness of the Christ (Eph 4:13). Go, therefore, rejoicing, because I betroth thee this day to Him. It is to Him that I bring thee and to Him that I commend thee, that he receive thee as a bride of incorruption. Behold the most glorious bridal chamber, pure of all deceit, and the holy angels standing by to escort thee as bride of Christ to the heavenly chambers, to rejoice and be glad with them forevermore in that ineffable delight. Walk the narrow and afflicted road of martyrdom. By this, thy soul shall go to that everlasting expanse and respite. We must not only endure dread torments for the love of Christ, but also receive death joyfully. If our Lord and Master died for our sake, how shall we not readily emulate Him in death for our salvation? Rather, my beloved daughter, do not deem it death to die for Christ, but good cheer, happiness, pleasure, splendor, and joy. Thou shalt be translated from this created light to a sweeter and more beautiful light. Thou shalt cross over from what is perishable and temporal to what is everlasting and eternal. Thou shalt pass from those things that sorrowful and laborious to what is good and joyful. Go, now, my beloved what is certain and lasting, which by no means comes to an end, that thou mightiest rejoice together with the wise virgins (Mt 25:10) in that unspeakable pleasure and indescribably joy which abides forever. Therefore, do not cower before the harsh oppressors and the fierceness of the torments, because the Master Christ, thy Bridegroom desires to stand by thee to lighten thy pains. If he seems to withdraw from thee for a short spell, it is to reveal thy patience and to test thy faith. Thus, all the spectators shall marvel at thy courage and readiness, but God shall not leave thee. If thou shalt weaken, then He shall quench the sharpness of thy wounds and thy pains. It is He that shall cause thy light to shine forth. He shall console thee, and the glory of the Lord shall encompass thee. These and many other exhortations were uttered to the most wise Sophia to the virgin. Anastasia then replied, Make entreaty, O my mother, on my behalf. Interced before our Master to send me strength and health from on high, that I do not falter before the cruelty of the tyrants: for the spirit indeed is willing but the flesh is weak (Mk 14:38). Without divine assistance, one cannot attain what is good. Pray fervently, therefore my mother, on my behalf, and I shall earnestly endeavor, held fast by the power of God and by the prayers, to keep the commandments without wavering.. After the virgin had said this to the teacher, forthwith, the soldiers ran and seized the lamb from the mother, and bound her with chains. The holy nun was then brought before the judgment seat. The soldiers, beholding her good conduct and beauty, were sore amazed.

The Saint Before the Judge Governor Probus was sitting in judgment when he asked the saint her name. She answered, I am called Anastasia, because the Lord raised me up, so that this day I might shame thee and thy father, the devil. When Probus heard this jarring remark, he endeavored to soften with flattery her stern and abrupt remark. However, the mindless one did not know that maidens adamantine soul in the Faith. Therefore, he said to her, Hearken to me, O daughter, for I advise thee to thine own benefit. Sacrifice to the great deities, and I shall betroth thee to a most wealthy prince. I shall give thee much gold, silver, splendid garments, slaves and many captives. In one moment thou shalt become noble and glorious. Therefore, know what is to thine advantage by doing that which is worthy of thy beauty and the nobility of thy soul. Do not try my wrath, only to learn the great evil of impiety, because I sorrow for thy comeliness. I, as would thine own father, will provide and counsel what is to thy benefit and advantage. If, however, thou wilt not hearken, I will give reign to my anger and cruelty upon thee, as no thou dost behold my good will and civility. Moreover, then thou wilt repent to no avail When Christs martyr heard these things, she brought to mind the motherly advice of her wise instructress, Mother Sophia. His threat of the application of torments did not dismay her. With total modesty of spirit, she said, O judge, my most sweet Bridegroom is my Master Christ. His death for me is the most honorable death. On account of my Christ, I count as nothing all pleasures and advantages of the world. Gold, silver, precious stones, and all the rest, which lovers of the flesh honor, I deem as mud. Though subjected to fire, sword, and chains, or dismemberment, wounds, and scourging-or whatever torment you might contrive yet I have the pleasure and joy of gazing upon my Master and Savior Jesus Christ. Not only shall I suffer such things for His love, but I also desire to die myriads of deaths for Him. Therefore, do not play the part of one who is sad for my beauty, which shall wither as a flower of the field. Instead, do that which is in thy power, so the time does not pass in vain, because I have no wish to worship wooden and stone deities The governor, enraged at her boldness and freedom of speech, first ordered that she be beaten mercilessly in the face. Afterward, she was to be disrobed, so all the spectators in the amphitheater might behold her shame. They removed the clothing from that comely body, venerable to angels, and presented her before all with no covering, so she might be mocked. The governor then said, This befits thy highmindedness; thus thou art held up to ridicule before the eyes of so many men. If thou dost not wish to see the untimely waste of such beauty and risk destruction in a degrading manner, even now, seek the good favor of the deities. If thou wilt not do my will, no one shall be able to deliver thee out of my hands. I shall cut thee into small pieces and cast they members as food to the wild beasts The saint then answers, I, O governor, have no shame at the nakedness of my body, but deem it, indeed, as a bright and majestic adornment. This is because, putting off the old man, I desire to put on the new man, who according to God, was created in reighteousness and the holiness of the truth

(Eph 4:24). . Therefore, I am ready to receive that death which thou dost threaten me , for I am full of longing. Even if thou wilt cut off my limbs, O savage judge, and root out all my tongue, teeth, and nails, then thou wilt much more benefit me. I owe all to my Creator and Savior, and it is in Him that I desire to be glorified in all my members. Moreover, I shall present them to Him as adornments with the raiment of profession of the Faith. This and more was uttered by the holy woman, to rouse the anger of the judge. She did not desire his pity. Neither did she wish for him to withhold the torments, thereby depriving her of the crowns of the contests. Both the ruler and the crowed were dumbfounded by the boldness of one virgin. Probus ceased flattering her and employed punishments and dread torments

The Sufferings of the Saint The governor ordered that four stakes be secured to the ground. The saint would then be stretched and inverted while a fire with oil, pitch, brimstone and other materials burned below. Thus the flames would burn her chest, lower abdomen, and entrails. The merciless executioners then took rods and rained blows upon her back. Thus the ever-memorable nun was tormented for a long while leaver her spine and her back parts torn asunder. On the anterior side of her body, the skin, blood vessels and blood were in flames. She underwent such acute suffering and pain that it is impossible to describe. Only to hear of such torments would cause everyone to recoil and wonder. However, the martyr-O valiant soul! with prayer only, as a kind of dew, extinguished the intensity of the fire when she brought to mind the ancient wonders of God. She was able to do this because she was adorned with much knowledge and wisdom of the divine writings of Scripture, and thus, this lightened her sufferings. When that wild and inhuman beast, the governor, beheld that she did not cower before the torments, he devised new tests of endurance. He commanded that she be bound to the wheel: and forthwith, his order was carried out. The wheel, turned by some mechanical contrivance, crushed the holy womans bones. Her tendons and joints were stretched and- alas! her bodily structure was displaced from its natural position, rendering her a pitiful sight. The martyr, again, invoked Him who was able to help her in that time of affliction and deliver her from the hands of her enemies. Thus she uttered, O God of gods, O Lord of hosts, O God of my salvation, my patience, my refuge and my strength, the hope of my soul and my salvation, be not far from me; for my life is spent with grief (Ps 30:10), and my belly hath cleaved to the earth (Ps43:26). My bones have been consumed as wood for the burning. Give me help in the hour of my affliction, O God, who clothes me with power. After the saint had prayed, O the speedy visitations! O the quick deliverance! Instantly, the abundance of divine power was supplied to her and she found herself released from that painful and inhuman mechanical device. She then stood before the governor in full health, without a trace of the burns on her body. However, the most blind one, intoxicated with impiety, madness, and the darkness that enveloped him was unable to perceive the miracle of divine power.

The governor ordered that she be hung up on the wood again and lacerated with iron claws. The holy woman prayed, and straightway, she was vouchsafed with help from on high. The executioners stretched her on a rack, but she withstood it without sustaining any suffering. The governor, astonished, rose up several times from his throne in a rage. After she had survived contests that surpassed nature, he was at a loss with what to do with her. The devil, however, who spoke to him secretly prompted him to cut off the holy womans breasts. This punishment O you who hear this account is severe and keen. However, the heart of the martyr, filled with love of Christ, reckoned all things of the body as of no consequence and disdained this further mutilation. When the abominable tyrant observed the perseverance of the holy woman in enduring this grievous torment, he intensified the punishments. He then had all her teeth and nails broken. Anastasia, the stalwart contestant, as one insensible to pain, ardently gave thanks unto the Lord, because He counted her worthy to partake of His sufferings. She then mocked the deities of the tyrant, naming them darkness and demons that lead souls to error and destruction. The judge could not bear to hear the ridicule since those with infirm eyes shun light. Therefore, he commanded that her tonge be plucked from her throat. Again, Christs athlete did not shrink back from this torture. She only requested a small allowance of time that she might render the proper prayer with the organ of voice and and glorify the Lord. Thereupon she offered thanks to God and made an entreaty that her martyrdom be crowned with a glorious end. When the martyr heard the divine voice, she rejoiced and told the executioner to carry out the command. Then alas!-that tongue of theology and mouthpiece of divine words was severed with an iron instrument. The flow of blood that resulted reddened the garments of the blameless bridge of Christ. Unsettled by the pain, the saint requested water. A certain virtuous Christian, named Kyril, offered her a cup of cool water. For this small kindness, he received from God the crown of the contest. This happened when Probus learned that Kyril, sorrowing for the saint, had given her water. The governor then ordered that the heads of Anastasia and Kyril be struck off. Thus, the two contestants emerged as victors upon finishing the course of martyrdom together.

The Relics of the Saint For several days, the relics of the holy woman, by divine command will, were approached by neither bird or beast. Moreover, a divine angel was sent from on high to take up the precious relics and transfer them to her teacher, Mother Sophia. The blessed Sophia received them and with eyes brimming with tears, kissed them , and embraced them many times. She then said, My most precious and beloved child, whom I nurtured well with many laborsI thank thee that hast not disdained the ordinances. Neither have you thought little of the admonitions nor rejected the commandments.

Instead, thou have preserved the promises and thus have now passed to your Bridegroom Christ robed with the vesture of virginity, embroidered with the marks of martyrdom, and adorned with a crown of precious stones. Now you dwell in the wondrous tents of the righteous, in the glorious house of the Lord, rejoicing with the angels. Because of her aadvanced age, she was unable to lift the relics. Suddenly, two angels appeared before her in the form of men, possessing venerable aspects. They lifted the august and sacred relics. All together they went to Rome, where they deposited the relics in a splendid and honorable manner to the glory of God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, together with the Holy Spirit, equal in honor and dominion, now and forever to the ages of ages .Amen